EDUCATION: Homeschooling is an option that some parents are trying with their children in hopes of providing them with a more relevant education that combines western knowledge with indigenous knowledge systems. Carmen Wells from Siksika Nation is one such parent who has recently enrolled her oldest child into a homeschooling program and has made Indigenous education the priority including teaching the history, language and ceremonies which she believes is crucial to lifelong learning. She shares her experience with homeschooling including her decision to do this, what this entails and advice to other parents who want to pursue this style of education.
Why did you choose to home school your child?
I chose homeschooling so I could develop a stronger sense of identity with them. I focus more on our Aboriginal history and culture first. I know personally what it was like to attend a school where you were made to feel less than and who you are is of no importance. I don’t want my children to face this as they grow up. I want them to have a strong connection with our Native culture and to always have a strong sense of identity. Home schooling allows me to teach my child EVERYTHING and ANYTHING all at the same time. My teachings are based around our spirituality and connectedness first and foremost.
How long have you been homeschooling?
This is our first attempt. My oldest child was entering Gr.7 and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do it. I have 2 others still in school, Gr. 3 and Gr. 6. Next year I will have all 3 at home. I wanted to make sure first that I was capable of doing it. I was always apprehensive about sending my children to school from the beginning. Because I was culturally brainwashed I thought this was the only way for my children to learn. I was wrong. My instincts were right. The best way for them to learn is from us, their parents. I am bringing back an old tradition, where children are nurtured and taught solely by parents and elders. I am not opposed to living in today’s society I am merely growing my children to be stronger and smarter. I am building them up to be successful on their own terms not societies.
Do you follow a curriculum or create your own?
I do not follow a curriculum; I chose traditional homeschooling in where I develop his entire curriculum. Math and science are very basic and everybody learns all the same stuff, so there really wasn’t much to change. We do however work at an accelerated pace because he is a faster thinker/processor. Language Arts and Social Studies are my main concern and I do not follow the Canadian curriculum of studies. Language Arts is based only on Native literature and authors. We study things like influential Chiefs of the past and today, native athletes and artists. We visit our Elders in the community who have shared stories of the past with us. We focus on learning/speaking Blackfoot. We are learning what Sacred Societies are and which societies are still here today. Our culture is so rich and beautiful and I want my children to know all there is to know about it before they start learning of another.
Do you think this has been a better experience for your child? Why?
Yes I do think this is a better learning for my child. Not only do I challenge him but I am also patient if he does not understand something. I see in him a confidence I have never experienced from the 6 yrs he was in school. He is flourishing in ways that are unexplainable, all because he is where he should be, at home with me.
What advice do you have for other parents who are considering this style of education?
My only advice is to take the leap. You may think you don’t know or are not smart enough to teach your child, breakaway from that mentality and have confidence in yourself and what you’ve always been capable of. I spent 6 years not listening to my instincts, now I am going to spend the next few correcting it. A lot of people will judge you or question you but when you are continuously growing your child in a good way, societies ideals are of no importance.